In this guide, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about digital photography.
Living in a digital world, we are getting used to everything becoming digital. The ways of life have changed along with the growth of technology.
Now we communicate, shop, and even work digitally. In this area, photography is one of the things that has changed as well.
Before the days of social media and internet life, photography already went digital.
To be exact, the first digital camera was made in 1975. Kodak engineer Steve Sasson created the first-ever digital camera using leftover parts and kits from around the Kodak factory.
The camera was able to take a single image in 23 seconds. That was the beginning of the history of digital photography that changed the whole photographic world.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What is Digital Photography?
Digital photography refers to the process of capturing and storing photographic images using digital technology, rather than traditional film photography.
In digital photography, a digital camera is used to capture an image, which is then saved as a digital file on a memory card or other storage device. The digital file can then be transferred to a computer or other device for viewing, editing, and sharing.
The images are stored digitally as computer files ready for digital processing.
The most significant difference between digital photography and traditional photography is the use of electronics to capture and store images rather than film.
How Do Digital Cameras Work?
Digital cameras use an electronic image sensor, usually either a CCD (charged coupled device) or a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) sensor, to capture the image.
The image sensor converts the light that enters the camera through the lens into an electronic signal, which is then processed by the camera’s electronics to create a digital image.
Digital Photography Examples
Here are some examples of notable digital photography works:
1. Andreas Gursky – “99 Cent II Diptychon” (2001)
Andreas Gursky – “99 Cent II Diptychon” (2001): This large-scale photograph captures the interior of a discount store with rows of colorful products. Gursky’s work often explores the themes of consumerism and globalization.
2. Cindy Sherman – Self-Portraits (Various)
Cindy Sherman – Self-Portraits (Various): Sherman is known for her series of self-portraits where she transforms herself into various characters and personas. Her work challenges notions of identity, gender, and representation.
3. Richard Misrach – “Golden Gate” (1992)
Richard Misrach – “Golden Gate” (1992): This photograph captures the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at dusk, showcasing Misrach’s skill in capturing landscapes and the play of light.
4. Gregory Crewdson – “Beneath the Roses” (2003-2008)
Gregory Crewdson – “Beneath the Roses” (2003-2008): Crewdson’s elaborately staged photographs often resemble movie scenes, featuring suburban and eerie settings that evoke a sense of mystery and psychological tension.
5. Nan Goldin – “Nan One Month After Being Battered” (1984)
Nan Goldin – “Nan One Month After Being Battered” (1984): Goldin’s intimate and raw photography documents her own life and the lives of her friends, often dealing with issues of love, relationships, and personal struggles.
6. Steve McCurry – “Afghan Girl” (1984)
Steve McCurry – “Afghan Girl” (1984): This iconic portrait of a young Afghan refugee became synonymous with National Geographic and is known for its striking use of color and emotional impact.
7. Hiroshi Sugimoto – “Seascapes” (Various)
Hiroshi Sugimoto – “Seascapes” (Various): Sugimoto’s long-exposure photographs of seascapes create serene and minimalist images that explore the concept of time and the eternal nature of the sea.
8. Annie Leibovitz – “John Lennon and Yoko Ono” (1980)
Annie Leibovitz – “John Lennon and Yoko Ono” (1980): Leibovitz’s portrait of the couple, taken shortly before Lennon’s death, is a powerful representation of their relationship and vulnerability.
9. Thomas Ruff – “JPEG” Series (2007-2010)
Thomas Ruff – “JPEG” Series (2007-2010): Ruff’s “JPEG” series explores the nature of digital images by enlarging low-resolution JPEGs from the internet, emphasizing pixelation and abstraction.
10. Rineke Dijkstra – “Beach Portraits” (1992-2012)
Rineke Dijkstra – “Beach Portraits” (1992-2012): Dijkstra’s series captures portraits of teenagers on beaches across the world. Her work often delves into themes of adolescence, vulnerability, and identity.
Has Digital Photography Made Us Better Photographers?
Digital photography has certainly made it easier and more convenient to take and share photographs, but whether it has made us better photographers is a matter of debate.
On the one hand, many believe including me, that digital photography has allowed us to take more photos more easily, which can help us learn and improve our photography skills through trial and error. Additionally, the ability to review and edit photos instantly can help us identify areas for improvement and make adjustments on the spot.
However, some argue that the ease and convenience of digital photography have also led to a decrease in the quality of our photos, as we may rely too heavily on post-processing tools rather than focusing on capturing the best possible image in camera.
Additionally, the instant gratification of digital photography can lead us to take more photos without careful consideration, leading to a larger volume of mediocre photos rather than a smaller number of high-quality ones.
What do you think?
What is The Purpose of Digital Photography?
Now that we know what digital photography is all about let us talk about the purpose of digital photography.
Digital photography has pretty much the same purpose as film photography.
For many people, the ability to capture life’s important moments is the primary reason for taking photographs.
The invention of photography also makes it possible for people to see public figures as realistically as they can be, far better than paintings.
Nowadays, photography serves so many purposes. Whether for professional purposes or personal purposes.
The most common purposes of photography can be described based on the types of photography as follows. These are just a few:
1. Commercial Photography
Commercial photography is often taken to be used as advertising material.
Commercial photography is usually used to promote or sell products.
Professional photographers are hired to take photos of the products.
Later, the photos are used as campaign materials such as brochures, pamphlets, billboards, and other types of advertising campaigns.
2. Documentary Photography
Just as it sounds, documentary photography is primarily focused on documenting life moments and events.
The moments captured may vary from personal events like weddings and birthdays to moments such as political events or festivals.
The purpose is to capture the moment so it will not just fade away.
We can thank the documentary photographers of the past for capturing some of the most important moments in modern history.
3. Journalism Photography
Journalism photography has almost the same purpose as documentary photography.
The difference between the two is documentary photography is usually taken to document moments, while journalism photography has another purpose, which is to deliver the news.
That’s why journalism photography must answer the what, when, where, who, why, and hows.
The goal of journalism photography is to make people understand what happened at that moment in relation to the news.
Journalism photography can complete a story or article, but it should be able to stand on its own too.
4. Editorial Photography
Editorial photography is usually used for publications such as magazines.
It may include fashion and products and events, but it focuses on the story.
It’s the difference between editorial photography and product photography or commercial photography.
Editorial photography is not created to just sell products, but more to tell stories and for more educational and informative purposes.
5. Art Photography
Art photography is a form of photography used by artists to show ideas, concepts, messages, and emotions through a picture.
It’s the same as other forms of art, but the artist uses photographs as their medium.
Art photography can vary significantly depending on the artist. As a form of art, this kind of photography can also have genres such as abstract, conceptual, portraits, black and white, and many more.
Along with the growth of digital photo manipulation, art photography has entered a new phase of possibilities.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Digital Photography
To answer the question “What is digital photography” we should also explore the advantages and disadvantages of digital photography.
Why are digital cameras far more popular than film cameras? Are they better or do they have some negative aspects too?
Advantages of Digital Photography
These are some of the most common advantages of digital photography:
1. No Film is Needed
With the images captured digitally, it means you do not have to purchase single-use photo films and don’t have to go through the process of film processing which can take time.
With digital photography, you can save both time and money.
2. Larger Storage
While the manual camera has limited storage depending on the length of the film roll, digital cameras have much larger storage.
It is easier for photographers to just go with their camera and memory card, and not have to carry rolls and rolls of film that can be bulky and heavy.
Nowadays, you can easily store your photographs in the cloud or save them in a digital photo album.
3. Preview Screen
With a digital camera (DSLR), you can review the photograph right away after you take the picture.
If you don’t like it, you can just delete it to save some space for better shots. In comparison, film cameras require you to wait until the film is processed just to see the result.
4. Environmentally Friendly
Everything is processed digitally, which means we don’t have to waste chemicals to process the image, and we don’t have to worry about recycling the film plastic container.
5. Advanced Features
Digital cameras are completed with features such as face detection and motion detection to help us avoid getting blurry images.
They have other features too, such as Bluetooth, wi-fi, and even the capability to record video.
Disadvantages of Digital Photography
Now that we know the advantages of digital photography, let’s talk about the disadvantages of digital photography:
1. Storage Problems
Digital cameras store the images on the memory card.
Sometimes, the memory card can get corrupted, and all of the data can be lost completely.
High-end digital cameras can be more expensive compared to film cameras.
3. Battery Consumption
Digital cameras consume more battery than film cameras.
We may need some extra batteries in hand, especially when we need to perform a long-time outdoor photoshoot.
4. Image Resolution
Images produced by a digital camera can be used for digital purposes just fine.
But when it comes to prints, some film cameras still win on the resolution and quality front.
5. Dynamic Range
Film cameras have a better dynamic range than digital cameras.
This means the film camera can capture a wider range of tonal qualities.
With this capability, film cameras can avoid overexposure of highlights, which quite often happen with digital cameras.
6. Shutter Lag
Digital cameras sometimes have problems with shutter lag.
This creates a delay in time between when you press the button and the time when the images are captured.
This can make the photo that is captured vary from the way that you wanted it to be.
What is the Difference Between Photography and Digital Photography
The main tool used in photography is the camera.
So, the main difference between photography and digital photography is the camera used.
Think of “photography” as the parent category and digital photography as a child category that falls under the branch of photography.
Traditional film photography makes use of a film camera that uses light-sensitive films to capture the image.
The chemical layer on the surface of the film reacts as the light strikes and records the image. While digital cameras use optical sensors to capture the image.
Unlike photo films, these sensors can be used and re-used an unlimited amount of times without replacement.
Differences also exist from an image processing perspective. In a film camera, we can only see the result after the images are fully developed.
While in a digital camera, we can see the results right away and start processing them at once.
What are the Two Main Types of Digital Photography?
When we talk about digital photography, we mostly talk about the digital camera.
Now, what are the two main types of digital photography/digital cameras?
Digital photography can be divided into two main types as follow:
1. Digital Consumer Camera
Digital consumer cameras are usually marketed as all-in-one devices completed with some features to attract the regular consumer. There are two types of consumer cameras:
Created mainly for functionality and practicality. They are compact and lightweight, so you can always bring them with you.
They usually have lower image quality and have very basic user control.
This kind of camera can be used even by an amateur with no photography knowledge, so it is perfect for those who only want to capture moments without wanting to get more technical.
High-End Consumer Camera
This camera has more user control but is still limited compared to the pro cameras.
This camera is perfect for those who want to learn a little bit more and want to have more control over their camera.
2. Digital Prosumer Camera
The prosumer camera is a term used to describe a professional-quality camera but sold at a consumer price.
These cameras have more user control, interchangeable lenses, and other features required for professional usage.
If you want to get deeper into photography, you may consider buying this type of camera.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is digital photography easy?
Getting started with digital photography can be easy but mastering digital photography can take time, practice, and a willingness to learn and experiment with the various settings and techniques available.
How do I start learning digital photography?
To start learning digital photography, you can begin by familiarizing yourself with the basics of exposure, composition, and lighting. You can practice by taking photos with your digital camera, experimenting with different settings, and reviewing your results to identify areas for improvement.
That is everything you need to know about starting out in digital photography and what is digital photography.
We have discussed the types, purposes, advantages, and disadvantages of digital photography.
Hopefully, the merits of digital photography will have convinced you. So, now you are ready to start your photographic journey.
Jon has been a passionate photographer for 10+ years. Fun fact is that he has a collection of around 300-400 cameras that his family has collected over the years. Outside of photography, he has a Masters Degree in Engineering and has 13 years experience working in the industry across the globe.